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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Orc in the Playground
     
    GnomePirate

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    Default An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    I am writing a low level adventure based around stirges and I am would like to make the creature more interesting. Please take a minute and use your imagination to help me answer these questions:

    1) What do stirges look like? In BECMI and B/X they are described as "birdlike with a long beak". 5e describes them as a "cross between a large bat and an oversized mosquito." How do you picture them in your mind?

    2) Did stirges evolve naturally or are they unnatural creatures created by a wizard, demon, god etc? If unnatural, why were they created?

    3) How do stirges procreate? I think this goes back to question one. If they are birdlike, should they procreate like birds? If they are insects, should they procreate like insects?

    4) Why do stirges need blood? Is it just for food or is it for another reason?

    5) What is a stirge lair like? Do they have nests, cocoons, a queen stirge, etc?

    6) Is there anything found in a stirge lair that can be used as an ingredient for magic, potions, etc?

    7) BECMI and B/X gave Stirges treasure type L which means a stirge lair has a 50% chance of having 1d4 gems. Why would stirges collect gems? Is it just because they are pretty or do stirges need them for some reason?

    8) My idea for an adventure is that a small village has been experiencing stirge attacks on their livestock. During the adventure, the PCs discover that the stirges have been intentionally moved to a cave near the village. How could someone create/move a stirge lair?

    Thanks for any ideas you have and are willing to share.
    "Sure, Philosophers can say 'But how do we know the sun will rise tomorrow?' to which the correct response is 'Shut up nerd! Stop playing 3D chess against your own brain and find something real to worry about'."

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    Default Re: An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    Originally Posted by Trafalgar
    I am writing a low level adventure based around stirges and I am would like to make the creature more interesting. Please take a minute and use your imagination to help me answer these questions:
    1. This is my favorite image of a stirge, which combines mammalian and arthropod traits. The wings are almost perfect bat wings. This is another good one, very different in its body design, but the head works better for a purely mammalian species.

    2. Evolved naturally seems fine to me, although not from any major mammalian group. Need to think on this a little more.

    3. Birdlike makes more sense to me, probably with eggs that hatch into altricial young that need to be fed frequent blood meals. This could correspond with evolution from a basal group of mammals that retains egglaying.

    4. Flying is energetically expensive and requires a steady supply of oxygen. Blood is nutritious in itself, essentially liquid protein, and it’s also loaded with iron, so it’s well-suited as food for a flying creature.

    5. Colonial nesting sounds about right. There’s no queen stirge that I know of, so it makes sense for stirge lairs to be communal roosting areas, perhaps with extended families of several generations. As a bonus, they could work in feathers, fur, and fine bones of their victims into their nests.

    6. As noted above, stirge nests could contain feathers of their victims, and the feathers of rare birds could be useful as components for a wide range of applications. Likewise with the bones. Also, since drinking too much blood can lead to iron toxicity, stirges may have a metabolic pathway for safely excreting any excess of iron, and droplets of "stirge iron" might be useful for various rituals.

    7. Many creatures, including many insects and some birds, give nuptial gifts as part of courtship. Stirges might well use gemstones for that purpose, although likely mixed in with glass beads, chips of pyrite, and other items which are equally flashy but with much less value to humans.

    8. Charm Monster might be one approach—charm them and convince them the new lair is close to an abundant food source, which is perfectly true. The hitch is that stirges are not at all bright, so this may be difficult to get across. But leading them to the new lair with a bowl of warm blood might be a plausible nonverbal method.

    If you’d prefer a nonmagical approach, then it shouldn’t be difficult for a druid or a ranger to rear stirges, keep them in a large wicker cage deep in the forest, and then physically relocate them to the cave.


    Hope these help, and I'd be very interested in seeing the final version of your adventure.

    .
    Last edited by Palanan; 2021-11-27 at 03:19 PM.

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    Default Re: An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    Quote Originally Posted by Trafalgar View Post
    1) What do stirges look like? In BECMI and B/X they are described as "birdlike with a long beak". 5e describes them as a "cross between a large bat and an oversized mosquito." How do you picture them in your mind?
    Stirges are not birdies. Palanan's first image is just about a perfect representation of a stirge as far as I'm concerned.

    2) Did stirges evolve naturally or are they unnatural creatures created by a wizard, demon, god etc? If unnatural, why were they created?
    Stirger are essentially flying insectile owlbears (minus the owl and the bear, and with a splash of bat). I'd say a wizard did it. In that case I'd imagine it was an ill-conceived biomagical weapon: stirges are not particularly strong but I'd think they breed as fast as mosquitoes and with their blood drain they can absolutely decimate commoners and livestock which makes them scary.

    3) How do stirges procreate? I think this goes back to question one. (Â…) If they are insects, should they procreate like insects?
    Yup, I'd say. I'd imagine that they lay many-many eggs into gross water that hatch into ugly predatory larvae (you could even homebrew an aquatic larval swarm!)

    4) Why do stirges need blood? Is it just for food or is it for another reason?
    For the same reason mosquitoes do. It has a high nutritional value which helps the females prepare for "pregnancy" and enables them to produce more eggs.

    5) What is a stirge lair like? Do they have nests, cocoons, a queen stirge, etc?
    A marsh or wetland with enough trees or rocks or whatever for them to find shelter and have all the gross water they need for laying eggs. I fail to see why they would be eusocial, so no queens. I'd rather give them "kings", an incredibly small number of harmless males (represented by a stirge that doesn't drain blood; it's simple enough to pull) that only exist to keep the species running.
    Not being eusocial, they wouldn't have colonies with a strict structure either. I'd simply have them exhibit a gregarious behaviour.

    6) Is there anything found in a stirge lair that can be used as an ingredient for magic, potions, etc?
    Other than half-digested concentrated blood (mosquitoes can push the useless liquid content of the blood they consume out of their body and I'd assume stirges can do the same)? I don't think so, no.

    7) BECMI and B/X gave Stirges treasure type L which means a stirge lair has a 50% chance of having 1d4 gems. Why would stirges collect gems? Is it just because they are pretty or do stirges need them for some reason?
    That'sÂ… Weird. I wouldn't have them collect gems. Instead, I think "their" treasure should mostly consist of whatever foolish mortals carried on them when they foolishly strayed too close to a lair before getting sucked dry.

    8) My idea for an adventure is that a small village has been experiencing stirge attacks on their livestock. During the adventure, the PCs discover that the stirges have been intentionally moved to a cave near the village. How could someone create/move a stirge lair?
    Through draining their original breeding ground, so they have to look for a new source of gross water.

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    I think I'd lean on them being communal creatures, not eusocial like wasps, but still social and cooperative like some bats. Include elements from bats, insects and birds, maybe a smidge of alien.

    A few ideas for specific traits.

    • Naturally occurring, but not necessarily native to the world. Possibly an extraplanar or extraterrestrial animal that got brought over deliberately or accidently.
    • Reproduce via egg laying, one leathery reptile like egg glued to the ceiling with mucus at a time. This has the dual benefits of being weird and keeping their population relatively low, which is important considering how easily they can actually kill a lot of mundane creatures and people.
    • Caring for their young and their injured by feeding them via regurgitation. Also mutual grooming, it's a common social trait and makes them feel more like an animal.
    • Their lair, be it a cave or abandoned building or whatever, is crusted with iron oxides excreted as part of their faeces. A long term colony would be covered in reddish dust or flakes of rust, much like bat roosts and guano.
    • Most loot present is not there by design, the stirges don't carry things back with them. If the lair is an old building any treasure is from the previous inhabitants, if a cave or other natural feature it may have been carried in by something else or left by a victim who stumbled into their den and got eaten. Gems could also be part of the natural features of a cave they chose to live in.
    • Stirges can be trained and handled like any animal, if you put the time and effort in to learn how. Some of their would be trainers and breeders have allowed them to escape through negligence resulting in colonies in places you wouldn't necessarily expect. Capturing and moving them is not hard, a large net strung across the entrance to their lair, some smoke getting blown in to drive them out, and a few sturdy cages or crates to stick them in once netted and you have a bunch of captive stirges ready to be sold or relocated.
    • Stirges are averse to light and dislike being in spaces they cannot easily fly out of that aren't their lair, preferring to hunt at night and avoiding targets in lit or enclosed areas unless desperate. This leads them to target wild animals and large livestock over people, being unwilling to approach night watchmen with torches or to enter houses. A group of animals sleeping in the fields or in a semi-open cowshed is a much more tempting target.



    For your specific premise, you could perhaps have the stirge colony be in the area because someone was trying to train them and failed. Replace the cave with an old barn on an isolated farmstead. The previous owner was hired by a nobleman to train some stirges in secret to be an exotic addition to his collection of hunting pets, to join his falcons and owls as a surprise to wow other nobles during a hunting party he was planning. The trainer ultimately failed to get the stirges to properly take to their lessons, and was killed after a severe storm blew several of their cages over and released them. Frightened and hungry, the stirges ate their trainer when they next came into the barn, then established a nest in the hayloft, then began preying on nearby wildlife, eventually expanding their hunting ground to the nearby village and it's livestock.
    Sanity is nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

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    Default Re: An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    Thanks for the responses. This is very helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    2. Evolved naturally seems fine to me, although not from any major mammalian group. Need to think on this a little more.
    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    Stirger are essentially flying insectile owlbears (minus the owl and the bear, and with a splash of bat). I'd say a wizard did it. In that case I'd imagine it was an ill-conceived biomagical weapon: stirges are not particularly strong but I'd think they breed as fast as mosquitoes and with their blood drain they can absolutely decimate commoners and livestock which makes them scary.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grim Portent View Post
    • Naturally occurring, but not necessarily native to the world. Possibly an extraplanar or extraterrestrial animal that got brought over deliberately or accidently.
    My line on magic vs non-magic creatures is whether I can imagine the animal exists in the real world. For example; I can believe that there was once a species of wolf twice the size of what we have now. But I can't believe that there ever was a species of semi-intelligent wolves like the wargs in The Hobbit who can communicate with goblins and humans.

    Since they are a combination of bat and mosquito, I feel that stirges would need to have a supernatural origin. Since it's such a weird combination, I feel that some agent of Chaos must be involved, like a demon or a wizard experimenting in wild magic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Also, since drinking too much blood can lead to iron toxicity, stirges may have a metabolic pathway for safely excreting any excess of iron, and droplets of "stirge iron" might be useful for various rituals
    Quote Originally Posted by Grim Portent View Post
    • Their lair, be it a cave or abandoned building or whatever, is crusted with iron oxides excreted as part of their faeces. A long term colony would be covered in reddish dust or flakes of rust, much like bat roosts and guano.
    I really like adding details like this to my adventures. So the party enters a cavern system and finds a pile of reddish flaky guck. Rhianna the Ranger dips her fingers in it, sniffs it, and says "Stirges". Waldo the Wizard takes a sample to use in a ritual he has planned.

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    3. Birdlike makes more sense to me, probably with eggs that hatch into altricial young that need to be fed frequent blood meals. This could correspond with evolution from a basal group of mammals that retains egg laying.

    5. Colonial nesting sounds about right. There’s no queen stirge that I know of, so it makes sense for stirge lairs to be communal roosting areas, perhaps with extended families of several generations. As a bonus, they could work in feathers, fur, and fine bones of their victims into their nests.
    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    I'd imagine that they lay many-many eggs into gross water that hatch into ugly predatory larvae (you could even homebrew an aquatic larval swarm!)

    A marsh or wetland with enough trees or rocks or whatever for them to find shelter and have all the gross water they need for laying eggs. I fail to see why they would be eusocial, so no queens. I'd rather give them "kings", an incredibly small number of harmless males (represented by a stirge that doesn't drain blood; it's simple enough to pull) that only exist to keep the species running.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grim Portent View Post
    • Reproduce via egg laying, one leathery reptile like egg glued to the ceiling with mucus at a time. This has the dual benefits of being weird and keeping their population relatively low, which is important considering how easily they can actually kill a lot of mundane creatures and people.
    • Caring for their young and their injured by feeding them via regurgitation. Also mutual grooming, it's a common social trait and makes them feel more like an animal.
    Combining these ideas gives me a rough idea of how stirge colonies work. Each colony is based around several pools of a nasty black blood/water mix. Female stirges go out into the world and collect blood; some of which they consume and some gets regurgitated into the pool. Male stirges, in addition to tending the young, are able to use their iron rich feces to make simple structures, like the walls to the pools and nests. Around each pool are several nests where the female stirges lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae crawl into the pool to feed and grow.

    It's gross and disgusting and will make a memorable encounter for the players. I like it.
    "Sure, Philosophers can say 'But how do we know the sun will rise tomorrow?' to which the correct response is 'Shut up nerd! Stop playing 3D chess against your own brain and find something real to worry about'."

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    Default Re: An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    If you can track it down, Dragon Magazine #83 (March 1984) had an ecology of the stirge article.
    Last edited by Mark Hall; 2021-12-05 at 10:28 PM.
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    Default Re: An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    Quote Originally Posted by Trafalgar View Post
    I am writing a low level adventure based around stirges and I am would like to make the creature more interesting. Please take a minute and use your imagination to help me answer these questions:

    2) Did stirges evolve naturally or are they unnatural creatures created by a wizard, demon, god etc? If unnatural, why were they created?

    3) How do stirges procreate? I think this goes back to question one. If they are birdlike, should they procreate like birds? If they are insects, should they procreate like insects?

    4) Why do stirges need blood? Is it just for food or is it for another reason?

    5) What is a stirge lair like? Do they have nests, cocoons, a queen stirge, etc?

    6) Is there anything found in a stirge lair that can be used as an ingredient for magic, potions, etc?

    7) BECMI and B/X gave Stirges treasure type L which means a stirge lair has a 50% chance of having 1d4 gems. Why would stirges collect gems? Is it just because they are pretty or do stirges need them for some reason?

    8) My idea for an adventure is that a small village has been experiencing stirge attacks on their livestock. During the adventure, the PCs discover that the stirges have been intentionally moved to a cave near the village. How could someone create/move a stirge lair?

    Thanks for any ideas you have and are willing to share.
    1. Giant dark (maybe kinda reddish) mosquitos with four batlike wings, basically.

    2. I see them as a plague upon wet land-regions of the planet. I imagine at some point far in the past they were created from mundane creatures by somebody or something, but I never bothered thinking about it.

    3. I see them laying clusters of eggs in hard-to-reach areas, which they abandon to fate.

    4. sustenance (both food and water)

    5. I don't see them lairing at all. They wander around and sleep in trees or maybe little holes in the ground.

    8. Maybe somebody has been collecting eggs and relocating them to the lair so that they hatch near the village.

    I've had the idea for a swarm of stirges (or maybe a swarm of young ones); would fit with the relocated young idea for when your players get to the cave.

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    Default Re: An Ecology of Stirges (all editions)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    If you can track it down, Dragon Magazine #83 (March 1984) had an ecology of the stirge article.
    {{scrubbed}}The article is by Ed Greenwood who helped found the Forgotten Realms and, of course, invented the wizard Elminster. The article is about a great naturalist named Elmdaerle who studied stirges in the FR city of Arabel. So in Ed Greenwoods mind:
    Great Wizard = Elminster
    Great Naturalist = Elmdaerle

    Does the word "Elm" mean great in some FR language?
    Last edited by Mark Hall; 2021-12-10 at 11:15 AM.
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